The Strategic Failure of the Shalit Exchange

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Appeals made to the Israeli High Court of Justice by the families of victims, who attempted to prevent the release of the killers who murdered their loved ones, were turned down.  MK Dr. Arieh Eldad (National Unity Party), in an interview with Israel’s Channel One TV Mabat, warned that the government should not take down the Shalit protest tent since it will be needed by future families whose sons will be kidnapped and used as bargaining chips to compel Israel to release even more terrorist murderers from prison.

In the meantime, an Israeli TV broadcast aired showing Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ “Prime Minister,” giving a speech during the victory celebrations held in Gaza’s main square, in which he declared, “Palestinians will not be satisfied with 22% of Palestine, we want the 1948 territories [Israel] as well.”  This was an intentional jab at Mahmoud Abbas for having talked to the Israelis and having achieved nothing, while Hamas was able to deliver terrorists who will fight Israelis again.

Haniyeh gave an especially warm welcome to Yehya Al-Sinwar, a top Hamas security strategist who spent 23 years in an Israeli prison. Al-Sinwar called on the Hamas military wing to “kidnap more Israeli soldiers in order to free the remaining prisoners in Israeli jails.”

While Israelis felt good about Gilad Shalit’s return home and most were willing to pay the price, Israelis are also realistic about the increased vulnerability to their safety.  A Mabat/Israeli Channel One TV survey revealed that 63% believe “Israel paid too high a price for the Shalit deal.”

The survey also found that 70% believe that Israel must limit the release of terrorists and 82% believe that more soldiers will be kidnapped. Yet, 80% believed that Netanyahu acted the right way.  A surprising 64% believed that the media have put too much pressure on the government to go through with the Shalit deal. Finally, 67% believe that more terror will result from the prisoner exchange.

The long-term prognosis for Israel’s security following this prisoner exchange is negative. Had there been greater resolve and less defeatism by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the outcome could have been much more positive for Israel. During the Cast Lead Israeli operation against Hamas in Gaza, PM Olmert wanted Hamas to think that Israel intended to capture the Hamas leadership.  For Haniyeh Jabari and the others, saving their skins was of paramount importance.  Had Barak not spoken publicly of a “humanitarian corridor,” which enabled the top leadership to flee, the Hamas leaders would have been captured and exchanged for Shalit.

According to the intelligence reports at the time, Shalit was kept in the Rafah area and Olmert proposed to dispatch a full brigade to Rafah, but was opposed by Barak and others. Cast Lead was a tactical victory for Israel, but a strategic defeat. Gilad Shalit, the most valuable asset Hamas ever had, remained in their hands while Israel continued to remove red-lines until it finally surrendered this week.

Today the Israeli nation is proud and elated at the return of Gilad Shalit.  As Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu declared, “Today, Gilad is everyone’s son who has returned home.” Tomorrow, however, is another story…

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  • Alexander Gofen

    Today the Israeli nation demonstrates a birth defect of the Jewry times and again. The tragic consequences on the way as usual…

  • poetcomic1

    The Shalits had a powerful and brilliant Public Relations company working the media with a long range campaign to get Shalit home and damn the costs to Israel. The result is almost eerie in the figures you quotes in which most Israelis agree it was a terrible mistake and yet most Israelis support it. What is even more sickening about this is that Shalit IS a soldier and so many of the victims of terrorists have been and will be infants, grandmothers etc. If I were Shalit I could not live with the shame of my 'freedom'.

  • George Jochnowitz

    It is not surprising that terrorists are honored by Gaza. It is a bit more surprising that "poor starving Gaza" has brand-new luxury hotels.

  • Anon

    The only means of redemption would be if Israel starting demonstrating to the released killers that they were safer in prison than they are out in the open. At the very least condemn them to live in the shadows. At best find a way that they don't come near Israel or Israelis again for the rest of their lives.